ALBUQUERQUE — With a mostly-freshman squad, Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Linden Weese couldn’t have known what to expect in Sunday’s exhibition game against New Mexico at The Pit.
Weese and the Zias made a good impression against the Lobos, a Sweet 16 team last season in Division I. They stayed close for much of the game before UNM pulled away in the final 10 minutes to post a 98-66 victory.
The Zias never led, but recovered from an early 9-0 deficit to keep things interesting for much of the contest in front of an announced crowd of 7,555.
“Our kids did a good job against them,” Weese said. “We were outsized in every position on the floor. I was impressed with how our kids battled.”
So was Lobos coach Don Flanagan.
“It’s a kind of exhibition game you would like to have because you’re playing a team that’s prepared, a team that’s conditioned and a team that’s running things,” he said. “That definitely helped us.”
The Zias couldn’t contain UNM sophomore point guard Amy Beggin, who flirted with a triple double. Playing a game-high 37 minutes — no one from ENMU played more than 21 — Beggin scored 19 points and added game highs of 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Still, the Lobos led only 48-43 early in the second half and 64-56 with 9 1/2 minutes left before finishing the contest on a 34-10 surge.
“We kind of faltered a bit late,” Weese acknowledged.
Sophomore forward Megan Kabrick hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range and scored 11 points for the Zias, sharing team honors with freshman Cat Clay, who also had three treys. Freshman Til-Lois Fifer added 10 points off the bench.
Forward Dionne Marsh had 20 points and six rebounds for the Lobos, who also got 13 points from guard Brandi Kimble and 11 from reserve Jessica Kielpinski.
The Zias played their entire roster of 17 players, including 12 freshmen. Redshirt freshman Vanessa O’Neal of Clovis had a team-high four assists.
New Mexico downed 30-of-35 free throws in the game, including 20-of-21 in the first half. But the Zias cut a 14-point deficit to 42-35 at halftime when junior guard Lindsey Wood scored on a fast-break layup just before the buzzer.
“We didn’t defend particularly well, and we fouled way too much,” Flanagan said. “The Zias are a very hard-working, scrappy team that really played hard and gave us some problems. I was a little disappointed that defensively we couldn’t stop them.”
New Mexico, held to 35 percent shooting in the first half, warmed up to hit 22-of-38 during the second segment. The Lobos also dominated the glass 45-28 and forced ENMU into 21 turnovers.
The Zias will scrimmage McMurry University at 5 p.m. (MST) Thursday at Lubbock Christian’s Rip Griffin Arena, then return to the same venue on Monday for a 6 p.m. (MST) exhibition with the homestanding Lady Chaps. ENMU opens its regular season Nov. 16-17 in the Fort Lewis tournament at Durango, Colo., facing the host Skyhawks the first night and Dixie State (Utah) on the second day.